The regressive left and feminism

I was watching an interview of Nick Cohen by David Rubin regarding the ‘Regressive Left’ (a term I think that was coined by Bill Maher) where you’ll find that those who are on the centre left hold positions that, if viewed in any other light, would be what George Bush (originally coined by Michael Gerson) would refer to as “the soft bigotry of low expectations” rather than actually being the behaviour of someone who was ‘tolerant’ and ‘enlightened’:

One of the biggest problems I have are the likes of George Galloway who play this nonsense of ’the enemy of my enemy is a friend of mine’ which as you can see through numerous photos that he has been quite happy to side himself with tyrannical and despotic regimes as so long as they’re the ‘enemy of the United States’ even though his political stance, based on the ‘Respect Party’ manifesto, he apparently is for full equality of LGBT. Then when you drill down deep into the ‘Respect Party’ in respect to the various members not to mention the major funder of the party, Dr Mohammad Naseem, who is associated with the ‘Islamic Party of Great Britain’ which, to put it bluntly, didn’t exactly see LGBT people as those worthy of equal treatment and respect. The problem is that you had the one lone person the left, Peter Tatchell, actually standing up and pointing out the hypocrisy of that party and its leadership and what did Peter Tatchell receive in return? a torrent of abuse and being labelled as ‘Islamophobic’ because he dared to take the position that criminalising and killing LGBT people in the name of Islam isn’t a good thing to do.

Then there is a sad creature that goes by the name of Julie Bindel ( link ) where, after hearing on an almost constant basis then later in a video with Emma Watson giving a speech to the UN:

She cannot work out why it is associated with ‘man hating’. Well, when you allow the likes of Julie Bindel to join your ranks then you’ll be evaluated based on your fellow travellers. True, you cannot control who joins and leaves your ranks given that there is no single organisation that speaks for all feminists but you can at least call out those within the movement if they head off into the deep end like Julie Bindel (scroll down to the section entitled ‘will heterosexuality survive women’s liberation?’) on the aforementioned article link.

Take Islam for example, there are over one billion people and there are a huge multiplicity of voices – scholars critiquing and arguing with each other over the minute details of Islam law all the way up to whether secularism at the governmental level is compatible with Islam. There are many examples with the most high profile being the Al-Ghazali and the Mutazillites which debates ranged from the Qur’an being eternal vs. created, freewill vs. predestination (keeping in mind that I think it was Ali who raised the middle point which is known today as compatiblism). Then there is the clashes that occurred between the Hanbali and Jariri madhab with the Hanbali being the more conservative literalist where as Jariri being more liberal in its interpretation of Islamic law.

The point being is that even within a large movement such as Islam there are multiple voices – critiques and counter critiques so the question I ask is where are the critiques of Julie Bindel? with over 160 articles to her name it isn’t as though she is some hair brained crackpot with an audience of two but rather someone who has a prominence place on the Guardian so it isn’t as though she’s been hiding under a rock. I’ve looked through, trying to find someone writing a counter critique of what she writes and I can’t find a single thing from a person of equal stature in the media. Sure, I’ve found a random blog by some random blogger who considers Julie Bindel full of shit but that is hardly going to have much of an impact nor will it have any sort of profile equal to that of Julie Bindel to act as a counter balance. So what does one conclude other than fellow travellers believe what Julie Bindel has to write but they’re unwilling to go on the record that they agree with her?

Just a couple of side notes before finishing this off:

1) I believe in total equality between men and women but don’t turn around then demand more but get paid the same – if you want to have maternity leave, if you want to be able to leave work then come back after having kids then guess what – that’ll be counted against you. If a man did the same thing and said, “hey boss, I want to have 9 months off because the local rugby team is heading over to Europe for a tour” do they really think that the boss will say, “sure, no problems, and it won’t get held against you in the future”? I remember when my old man got out of the Army to sell computers for Burroughs, he too realised that when he returned that the decision would be be counted against him when it came to getting promoted. We make choices and part of being equal rights is being given equal responsibility – if you make a choice, be it having kids or going for a rugby tour then it is a choice that you make and if you don’t want to sacrifice future chances of promotion then don’t go ahead.

2) Just reading through one of the many articles that Julie has made on the Guradian, the sort of articles bring out such people as this commenter:

It’s difficult to attack male power and privilege without making it sound as if you are attacking men (which you are not) because lots of men take their power and privilege for granted, see it as their inherent right.

And what ‘privilege’ do I have? again, this is an example of once again a person writes a comment then throws around the term ‘privilege’ and never explains what I, a 35 year old gay white male of low income stature, have in terms of my privilege. Do I just turn up to a potential employer, flash around my patriarchy card and I’m instantly given employment with a great compensation package no questions asked? This is what happens when feminists, like those far right populists, start throwing around terms that take the human element out of the equation and simply refer to a group as ’those’ and ’them’ where their humanity isn’t considered but rather this faceless entity that they cannot associate with an actual person but rather a faceless mass. It is the same sort of games that you hear the far right play when it comes to ‘the gays’ then suddenly when they actually meet a gay person it’s like “oh, I don’t mean people like you, you’re a good gay person, I mean those people over there” the faceless grouping that are easy to demonise because the humanity has been taken out of the equation and are now simply viewed as a faceless mass. When you start hearing people throw around the words like ‘men’ and ‘privilege’ in broad sweeping terms then it should set of alarm bells as being the first steps of dehumanising a mass of people rather than treating each person as an individual who have their own set of issues.

4 thoughts on “The regressive left and feminism

  1. I found this page while searching for similar articles. The second point of privilege I agree with. I disagree with the first point that women shouldn’t have certain privileges for having kids. First as a society we want to maintain a certain birthrate, otherwise you get major problems with a lack of people to fill in all the functions that we need. That’s a major reason why Germany is accepting so many Syrian refugees, they have a very low birthrate and need people to come in and fill in those jobs.

    Second you make a false equivalency that 9 months maternity leave is the same as taking 9 months to go on a rugby tour. Taking care of your kids, while rewarding, isn’t some leisurely activity like rugby. While you say you believe in equality for both sexes apparently that means that true equality can only come from couples refusing to have kids in order for women to have no more excuses for being paid less. I look at it the other way and want a true equivalency. If women get 9 months off to take care of children, men should too. Missing out on early child development isn’t exactly a choice men like making either.

    1. I am not making value judgements other than showing that both are choices – we as individuals make our own judgement as to the worth of a particular choice because the value of those choices are subjective. It is subjective because any decision we make involves sacrificing one thing for something else – you have a child then you give up advancement forward at the same rate as your male counterparts, you choose to invest time and money in restoring a 1970’s American muscle car then it means that you’ll have to give up being able to go out to eat once a week – each of these are choices and whether one is more valuable than another is based on what we consider more fulfilling. True equality comes when there is an acceptance that there are choices that we make and in the process of making choices it involves giving up something for something else. If you’re measuring ‘equality’ based on how much money you get at the end of each week rather than whether you feel fulfilled and valued by your family and community then that is a choice you make but lets not try to make out that ‘money earned’ is the only measure of whether a male and female are equal.

      As for whether male should have ‘time off’, then by all means, advocate for paid paternity leave but don’t demand ‘paid maternity leave’ whilst males aren’t given the opportunity to spend time with their child – the issue was about specifically wanting paid maternity leave but not willing to accept that it does have an impact on how much you could potentially earn. If you’re willing to give up some earnings for maternity leave or greater flexibility when it comes to work/life balance then by all means – if men are willing too do that then by all means do so. Like I said, it is about demanding paid maternity leave but then expecting to be paid the same amount – that isn’t equality, that is demanding special treatment.

      1. They are choices, but they are choices that impact the mother and father differently. If a man and a woman both work for the same company and both decide to to have a child, the woman will have a disproportional amount of burden over a man that makes the same choice. The woman alone carries the task of pregnancy, birth and recovery. This is not the fault of the woman for being born to carry children and thus they do get special accommodations, similar to handicapped people getting wheelchair ramps.

        While it may be fair to say that women who take time off work shouldn’t get paid as much as a man who doesn’t take any time off, it leads to a rational decision by many career oriented women to forego having children or to delay having children as long as possible. This is a ‘personal’ choice that has far reaching consequences to the economy as a whole, ultimately affecting you and me. Modern economies like Japan, Germany, France and Singapore are having problems with not having high enough birth rates and must institute all sorts of incentives to boost this rate. While this may seem unfair that those same incentives aren’t offered to men, it is a rational response by governments in order to deal with this. Not the same as the choice to restore a car or go on a rugby tour.

  2. @captainspirou

    Then what you’re demanding isn’t equality but equitable treatment which is an entirely different discussion altogether. That being said it doesn’t change the fact that having a child is still a choice nor does it change the fact that it is whether it is ‘rational’ or ‘irrational’ is a subjective given that it begs the question whether an individual is willing to give up economic status in favour of having a family – and some women choose to give up the economic status in favour of having children. That is looking at the issue in an abstract way assuming that all things being equal.

    The problem isn’t having to choose between one or the other but the fact that for many having to have a a full time job with long hours whilst raising a family isn’t a choice but a requirement given the after leaving university most women have a mountain of debt not to mention inflated house prices and cost of living etc which necessitate the need to have two incomes. As noted by Robert Reich the wage stagnation of the 1970’s moved the situation from women choosing to work to women having to work (with any time off from work would be devastating financially) not to mention that low income earners do not have that choice because it would be next to impossible to live on a single income not to mention the casualisation of the labour market meaning that jobs are even more unstable than they were in the past. If anything the argument over paid maternity leave is masking a bigger problems with the economy – that wages have stagnated thus giving very little flexibility even to people who don’t want to have children. If anything the argument shouldn’t be for paid maternity leave but rather better pay and more flexible work conditions to enable both men and women to play an active role in raising their children.

    Edit: Btw, if the argument for having more children indefinitely is the lynchpin to everything then it appears that ‘whether our economic system is broken’ seems to be a question never asked. We live on a planet with finite resources but apparently infinite economic and population growth is apparently desirable if for no other reason than to keep the status quo rocking along rather than asking whether this economic model even makes any sense to begin with.

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